My father-in-law was, simply put, a nice guy. I was never uncomfortable in his presence, and genuinely liked him from the first time we met. Over the next few years, he grew on me more and more, but I wasn’t never quite sure whether he felt the same way about me. He clearly approved of me—I mean, he did get adorably choked up at my wedding to his son, after all—but there was that lingering wonder as to whether he truly saw me, knew me, and genuinely thought of me as family. I am pretty different than who he was used to spending his time with. Not one to push such a personal matter like that, I simply enjoyed having such a lovely man as a father-in-law, and hoped one day he’d feel the same kind of affection for me as I had for him.
About a year after my wedding, everyone was gathered at my in-law’s apartment by the tree on Christmas morning, opening present after present (after present). You see, my mother-in-law was the designated gift-shopper, like in many couples of their generation. Since I spent more time with her than her husband, by the time we were only halfway through the mass of merrily-wrapped boxes and beribboned bags all labeled in her steady handwriting, I was surrounded by items that she had seen me eyeballing in shops or heard me mention in passing. Everyone else there, from my husband to his sisters to his nephews and more, all were in the same position, feeling grateful for her generosity and attention to detail.
Then a box was tossed into my lap.
This one was missing the usual glitter-drenched bows, elegant wrap, and label in my mother-in-law’s signature style. I looked up to see it had been tossed to me by my father-in-law, who sheepishly muttered, “that one’s from me.” When I tore off the paper and lifted the lid from the plain white box, I found the most beautiful brooch I’d ever seen inside. Now, I’m not one for wearing pins—I didn’t even think I owned one before that moment—but this gift was more “me” than anything else I’d opened so far. The brooch was like a cross between a snowflake and a flower, in shades of blue and green, with a hint of vintage flair to it that made me catch my breath. I had no idea I needed this in my life, but he did. I looked up to see him watching me, and he said that when he saw it, he just knew he had to get it for me. Besides, it matched my eyes like nothing he’d ever seen before, since my eyes were so—and then he waved his hand in the air as if to say, you know what I mean.
There’s no getting someone as fitting a gift as that if you’re not totally sold on them.
As the light caught in the sparkling crystals of the brooch, I fought back the wave of emotion telling me without a doubt that he saw and knew and loved me as much as I loved him. So I thanked him. For as perfect as that Christmas present was, the real gift that year was knowing that he felt about me as I had always hoped he would.
Photo: Getty (top); Kim Bongiorno (bottom)